We’ve all heard the stories about anxious Americans thinking about moving to Canada at the drop of a hat if Trump won the U.S. election. But the fact is that under immigration laws now in effect in Canada, it’s almost impossible for Americans to become permanent residents. “You can’t just get on a plane and land in Canada to live if you don’t like living in the U.S. anymore,” says Henry Chang, head of the immigration group with Blaney McMurtry in Toronto. “The self-entry system that’s in place now in Canada where you have to self-apply for residency is very strict—a lot stricter than it used to be.”
In fact, Chang calls a lot of the interest by Americans moving to Canada a simple, knee-jerk reaction, albeit one that crashed the Canadian Immigration site during election night. “In 2012, left-leaning Americans were threatening to move to Canada if Mitt Romney won,” says Chang. “I know of only two people who actually followed through with that and one was a client of mine—a musician.”
Sure, there are various routes by which Americans can become permanent Canadian residents but most require a specific job offer or sponsorship by a close family member. Those that are getting in through Canada’s express entry system can self-apply but again, Canada picks the best applicants according to a priority point calculation. “These mean that younger Americans who are fluent in English and French and who’ve already worked in Canada for a few years have the best chance of getting in,” says Chang.
Trump-averse U.S. citizens can either go after permanent residence in Canada or, try to get temporary status in Canada (such as through a work permit or study permit)—just until the next U.S. presidential election. Americans can either come in through the Federal Skilled Worker Class, the Canadian Experience Class or the Federal Skilled Trades Class. But these are subject to the Express Entry Program so it’s no longer possible for foreign nationals to directly apply for permanent entry under these categories. The Federal government has said it will be reviewing the Express Entry system, making it easier for international students with a good education to stay. But that won’t help if you’re 45 now with a college education. You just won’t qualify.
Of course, there are other options such as the Quebec Immigration Program, the Start-Up Business Class and the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Class. But it’s unlikely that the investor programs offered by B.C., Ontario and other provinces will be any easier to qualify under than the Express Entry program—mainly because they’re hugely expensive. For instance, in Quebec, under the investor program, you need to be a businessman who will put in at least $800,000 in their business and have a net worth of at least $1.6 million. (All amounts in Canadian dollars.) “Right now, most of those spots go to businesses and investors from Asia and the Middle East,” says Chang. “They have the money.”
Finally, certain professionals (such as scientists, accountants, engineers) may also be eligible for work permits as ‘Professionals’ as defined under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if they can find a Canadian employer willing to hire them.
The bottom line? Americans may be better off considering temporary options instead. “If they’re only hoping to avoid a four-year term under Trump, they could stay in Canada for at least four years,” says Chang. Of course, they would need to obtain a work permit or study permit in order to maintain their status for four years or more. Young U.S. adults should consider getting a study permit to attend post-secondary school in Canada. These are usually issues for the duration of post-secondary degree—usually four years.
So sure, U.S. citizens could apply to relocate here, either on a temporary or permanent basis, and Canada is happy to have them—provided, of course, that they qualify.
If you’re thinking about giving it a go, you may want to check out our ranking of the Best Places to Live in Canada.
More on Trump:
- Impact of Trump win on Canada’s real estate
- How you can protect your portfolio under Trump
- What Trump’s victory means for the economy